Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2013 "INDEED"


It started with books.

Louise Penny writes these wonderful mysteries that take place -- most of the time -- in a non-existant but enchanting village outside of Quebec.  Beth and I both love the stories, Penny’s way of turning a phrase, and especially Penny’s handsome, intelligence and completely disamring principal character -- the quietly effective, poetic, sensitive Armand Gamache.

That’s enough reason to plan a trip.  Who needs any other reasons?

Well, truthfully, the plans began with death.  Beth lost Dale last September after a protacted and gruesome battle with prostate cancer which metastisized in Dales’ bones.  (Beth is crying now, which is why I am writing this blog entry.)

I lost Ernie-- husband of 32+ years -- in March of 2013 after a long and arduous journey through cardio vascular stent, heart attack, broken back, and finally congestive heart failure.

Widowhood brought us grief and sorrow, memories and expectations.  Beth and I have been friends for over 15 years.  Healing happens when you help one another.  Even better reasons for a trip -- healing, grief, memories, and expectations.

So with the help of our best travel planner, Maria Shuler Nelson at AAA, who was preparing to leave for baby arrival, we’re off to Canada’s capital cities -- the eastern ones:  Toronto, Ottowa, Montreal, and Quebec (see, the Louise Penny books really are part of the trip.)

So if you want to join us on the trip via the books of Louise Penny follow us via the order of the Louise Penny books.

From the first to the most recent:


As you can see, some books have different titles. The first listed is for the US, the second is for the UK and Commonwealth, including Canada.


Not a woman in the world, privileged enuf to travel, will depart without purchasing at least one new pair of shoes.  If she’s smart she’ll wear them around the house and out a few times so the blisters have their day in the sun and don’t plague wearer while on the journey.

My new ones are scuffs, mules, slip-ons, whatever.  I won’t reveal the brand since it will identify me as an old lady.  they are black -- of course -- and will work for walking, touring, with slacks and even with a long skirt.  

When girls travel together -- girls of any age, whether traversing the mall or the globe -- they will consult as to wardrobe choices.  This policy/behavior translates to an email from me to Beth, showing off my new purchase.

“I think I have the same pair,” rejoiced Beth.

We will make a fine pair ourselves in our pairs of black scuffs.  

You can join us but only if you buy the same shoes and pay for your own room.


July 17, 2013

I do recognize that Beth and I will visit some very special and important places, but puhleeze.  The tour folks have sent us 2 pages -- TWO pages -- listing "Essential" and "Also Recommended" books.

Apparently we'll need 220 pages of history, 408 pages to guide us around Quebec, a mere 182 pages outlining Toronto, a whopping 480 pages covering the history of Niagara Falls, a Michelin map.

Really?  "Essential" books -- well over 1,000 pages?  Really?

I confess I've always relished the deep dive into the history, geography, geology, and population bits of the places I've visited.  Ernie and I were such suckers for the book stall at the tourist trap at the exit door of the cathedral/museum/garden/etc.  My garage is filled with books about dynasties, palaces, volcanoes, islands, wars, and the proverbial etc of traveler's books.  A careful read of the preceding sentence will tell you that we bot the books at the "end" of the tour, after our interest had been piqued. 

This habit was especially comforting as a good and new book, with relevant info was usually just what made the evening's wine and conversation both interesting and lively.

Beth and I will be engaged and interested tourers.  We're neither the type to meander just for the sake of saying we set foot on certain turf or stepped over the threshold of some important building or institution.  So we'll surely read and buy pamphlets and pick up brochures along the way.  We'll also surely share a glass of wine (or two) and discuss our respective perspectives of the day's sites.  

So, "essentially" I am reporting that the 1,000+ pages of "essential" reading will very likely not happen.  

Should I report my rebellion to the tour company?  Only if there's a test and my grade is less than acceptable.

PS  Fortunately, the "Also Recommended" list includes some great and recognizable authors, such as Margaret Atwood, Willa Cather, and Michael Ondaatje.  There are a few others whose names I don't recognize; these will likely be the books I purchase.  

After all, who could pass up this title (except maybe the Canadians?) -- How to Be a Canadian, Even if you Already Are One.  ONLY 275 pages,


Quebec; The Province

August 1, 2013

Quebec is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province that has a predominantly French speaking population and French as the sole official language at the provincial level.

In Canada the French speaking province of Quebec has strict language laws. These are zealously enforced by the Office québecoise de la langue française, the body charged with ensuring the primacy of French in Quebec. Xavier Ménard wanted to list his firm with the province's company registrar, but was rejected. The reason? His company's name, Wellarc, sounds too English http://econ.st/17hy0bD

Photo: In Canada the French speaking province of Quebec has strict language laws. These are zealously enforced by the Office québecoise de la langue française, the body charged with ensuring the primacy of French in Quebec. Xavier Ménard wanted to list his firm with the province's company registrar, but was rejected. The reason? His company's name, Wellarc, sounds too English http://econ.st/17hy0bD


August 4, 2013
why Francophone?

The Quiet Revolution ( Révolution tranquille) was the 1960s period of intense change in Quebec characterized by the rapid and effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state (état-providence), and realignment of politics into federalist and separatist factions.
The provincial government took over the fields of health care and education, which had been in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. It created ministries of Education and Health, expanded the public service, and made massive investments in the public education system and provincial infrastructure. The government allowed unionization of the civil service. It took measures to increase Québécois control over the province's economy and nationalized electricity production and distribution.
The Quiet Revolution was a period of unbridled economic and social development in Quebec and paralleled similar developments in the West in general. It can also be credited for the surge in nationalism, which remains a controversial topic in modern Quebec society. 

In 1977, during their first term in office, the Parti Québécois enacted the Charter of the French Language, known in English as Bill 101, whose goal is to protect the French language by making it the language of business in Quebec, as well as restricting the use of English on signs. The bill also restricted the eligibility for elementary and high school students to attend school in English, allowing this only for children of parents who had studied in English in Quebec. Children may also be eligible for English education if their parents or grandparents received a certain amount of English education outside of the province (ex. another Canadian province). Once a child has been permitted to attend an English primary or high school the remaining children in that family are also granted access.

Louise Penny (our author and muse for this trip) suggests that the  French Quebecois were thrilled with  Charter of the French Language and called themselves " maitres chez house",( Masters in their own house). But it was a most terrible price paid by the English. They lost their children as they moved to other areas to find jobs in English speaking regions. The English had become foreigners in their own province. (A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny)


August 12, 2013
It's all in the preparation

Look at Becky's great ensemble...we call it "luggagescaping". Lovely, just lovely!!!

Beth and I did some serious planning for our trip while waiting for dinner to cook.  What began as a sharing of our two lists became one list of urgent and important things to resolve and consider.

Where else would new widow women travelers begin than with the defining question: What purse are you taking?  Small purse for walking around with fold-up tote inside, and a tote for the bus to carry water bottle, knitting, Kindle, etc.  Naturally we will each also take a small evening bag for special events.

Being members of the technological age -- and participants as well -- the next questions and discussion were about current. (yes, we discussed currency as well, as in money. . .just have plenty on hand). Apple helped explain how their white boxes work.  One site says just plug in all the US things into Canadian outlets.  We will carry several adapters and confirm with hotel.

What if it's cold?  Pack leggings and gloves and a hat, plus vest and sweater to layer under coat.

What if it's warm?  don't take turtlenecks; instead pack tops with open necklines and add or subtract scarves.

What to wear on the plane?  comfy yoga pants and loose top, probably sox and a jacket for when the plane gets soooo cold.

Perhaps even more important than the purse question: sleeping pills.  Yes, for the red-eye flight and for adjusting to time change.

We probably should take some slacks and a skirt or dress and some unmentionables.  The standard toiletries package will go along, also.  Bathing suit and umbrella tho these will not be used together unless there is a fancy parade where we will sit on a float during a shower.

We are each putting a small bottle of vodka in the checked luggage.

Please let us know if we've missed something.


August 20, 2013

The FBI and IRS do this as a matter of routine investigation -- they follow the money.

Beth and I are doing everything we can to create a labyrinth of spending that will be impossible to trace.

That's the good news.  The worse news is that we are finding it harder and harder to follow ourselves.

Beth turned in mileage for award tickets for our flights.  AAA travel thinks of us as one account which makes it look like one of hasn't paid for the tour.  I bot All the Louise Penny books for the kindles.  Beth has reserved our limo for to-ing and fro-ing Seatac and Lakewood.  Beth got the AAA travel maps and books but they may be free from AAA.

I just bot a new dress for the trip but it will be too big for Beth so I can't add this cost to our itemized list.  I am buying drinks on the plane and dinner one night as my girlfriend gift.  During our rumblings we will likely treat one another to lunch or Cinzano or latte.

Maybe we should hire an accountant?

Fairly certain even a good accountant would not be able to Follow the Money when girlfriends travel.

Indeed. . .

September 11, 2013

Beth and I are in the final frenzy of packing.  We have lists and emails and notes and texts, all reminding us of essentials to a) do before departure and b) take with us.

Beginning with b)

All of the things we are packing and having the airline transport -- underline all -- are surely available in Canada, also part of what we call the civilized world.  Nevertheless, we are packing (among other things):

  • shampoo, deodorant, hair dryer (just in case we need another one tho hotels have one), several pairs of shoes, lots of clothing, jackets, a fleece vest, a turtle-neck, umbrellas, extra unmentionables, make-up, a bit of no-value jewelry, several scarves, sleeping clothes, etc.  

  • (And that's a big "etc.") 
  • technology stuff such as kindle, iPad, laptop, converters, adapters, chargers, binoculars, camera and camera card reader, probably a mouse, and did i mention chargers and adapters?

  • travel books, maps, notes, ideas from fellow travelers, itinerary, all the notes the tour company sent us about everything we need to know (a thick volume of info, too thick to absorb in one reading.)
  • money, credit cards, passport, cash, bags with pre-alloted tip dollars, driver's license, airline magic code for check-in.
  • fully-loaded book readers and iPhones, so we can carry 3582 books for reading in our spare time.

  • Luggage tags for in- and outside of checked luggage.

That's my pink PaperWhite Kindle in the middle of a pile
of clothes I may or may not take.
Whatever we have missed, we will have to buy in Canada.  Surely they have Q-Tips, eh?

The a) 'do before we depart' list is pretty much completed.  Some select to-do's include:  add international calling plan to cell phone; make copies of passport and credit cards; leave contact numbers with someone here at home; charge phone and kindle; notify bank and credit cards that both will be used in Canada and puhleeze do not reject these charges; get cash; confirm early arrival at hotel.

We just have to check in for flight -- after we finish the final frenzy of packing.

In frenzy we remain,

Beth and Becky

 "yes, we will be ready when the limo arrives to take us to SeaTac" travelers.

PS  Should I take my new dress?

Indeed!! . . .

September 13, 2013

Arriving in Toronto

We had an easy flight to Toronto other than it was overnight....we arrived at 7:30am to overcast, gray ominous clouds and 46 degrees. Thank goodness we brought rain gear and  jackets. Easy immigration and customs. A limo picked us up and drove us to the hotel pointing out the sights and neighborhoods...what? a large city that looks like every city!!!! 

We tried not to sleep on the way in but could not wait to get to the Fairmont Royal York. 

Once there the proverbial .... your room is not ready .... so we went to the dining room, ordered eggs benedict (outstanding Hollandaise sauce and per Becky the best ever!) and ate a slow and leisurely brunch, reading both of Toronto's local newspapers and chatting with anyone who would talk to us. Go here..go there...Hudson's Bay, Starbucks, The Tower, dining opportunities, the bathroom and all the other essentials.

Becky had finally had it around 11:00am and sweet talked the front desk into getting our suite ready. He traded with some other conference group  and got our room...lovely #6261....like the Olympic Hotel in Seattle, two small rooms made into a large room with two baths, two large closets, sofa, overstuffed chair, desk  etc. etc. etc. 

Perfect for two girls...don't touch my stuff!!!! that's my bathroom!!!! The Fairmont Royal York is centrally located in the financial district looking toward Lake Ontario. A lovely older hotel refurbished splendidly. 

Once in our room, we unpacked completely pretending we are on a cruise and since we are staying here 4 days WHY NOT??, remarking on what we left sitting on the counter at home; medications, beauty supplies, belts, evening wraps, booze...all  the essentials that we cannot live without...Therefore that called for a giant nap to rest and think things through more clearly before decisions....

Check! nap over....lets go!!! Hudson's Bay department store is very much like Nordstrom/Macy's full of expensive and lovely clothes that look like any other upscale shopping opportunity. Becky bought numerous dresses, scarves, and essential sundries...Beth on whom the mission was based bought a belt:) We began to feel the jet lag and needed to find a place to sit and rest before the long walk back to the hotel through the bustling people traffic of a Friday afternoon heading toward their meeting spots, home, a great weekend. We snuggled the small Cambridge Hotel bar for a rest before joining the crowd.

By the time we reached the Fairmont Royal York, we were exhausted and ready for more rest...so much more rest, that we were in our nighties and in bed ordering room service...the best fresh turkey clubhouse ever!!!!! Can't ask for more than that on a first night in a beautiful city...by tomorrow we will be back to ourselves and ready to meet our group!                     Night all!                 INDEED!!!

HUP TWO THREE....HUP TWO THREE!!              

  September 14, 2013


After a great night of real sleep, we woke to good coffee and a plan for the morning. Honestly if we didn't need food, I think we would have continued to stay in bed. I certainly thought I could....

AND All I can say is "whew" -- we did soooo much walking today with more shopping and really saw the areas near our hotel. Becky worked out that we walked approximately 8000 steps today. Boy o boy did our little feet tell us they agreed! Becky was sure we would have to call for help to get back to the hotel.

First stop was Shopsy's deli for breakfast.  The very best pancakes we've ever had.  The edges were crispy and the syrup was not as viscous as usual, but instead light and sweet.

Then a return to Hudson's Bay Company to return the dress Becky bot on Friday (great color but not my style, really).  Beth finally found a top to match the cute flowered sweater she loves.  Becky tried on her choice of tops right in the middle of the department, declaring to the clerk, "I have a camisole underneath my shirt so I'm just gonna try this on right here."  "It's magnificent!" the clerk responded.

The shoe department was quite unusual.  They have an even larger universe of choices than Nordie's, if that's possible.  Becky had to stop there while Beth went on to find her new blue shirt.  The shoe clerk takes your 'order' and then you wait a bit while the sizes and styles are retrieved from some inner sanctum of the store.  The selections are brought on a large multi-shelfed tea cart of sorts.  The clerk helped me maximize my savings by doing two separate transactions for the two pair of shoes I bot.

We decided then to head down toward Lake Ontario.  Seemed like a long walk, but probably less than a mile.  We were climbing the stairs to the Westin Harbor Center when Beth spotted two guys carrying Starbucks' cups.  "Eight minutes that way!"  Well, maybe a bit farther but we found it and sat outside in the cool shade watching people and talking about something serious, which I have now forgotten.
Back to the hotel from which we planned not to depart until we were expected in the lobby to meet the tour folks.  AND what to our delight but an honest to Pete real thank you letter from our maid Stella. Our first ever!!! AND not only that but she did about 4 extra nice things to our room!!! Bigger tip for tomorrow!!!! It pays to be nice!!!!

We didn't have time for a nap this afternoon so we worked on finances and spent hours deciding what we would wear to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) for our private showing of European Antiquities and private dinner at the museum. We both were dressed to the "T's" tonight and looked best of all the participants. Our dinner was braised short ribs which were the BEST we ever tasted! We met our team mates and will be ready to head out tomorrow morning bright and early! INDEED!!

"My Husband was the Founder. . . "
September 15, 2013

Though it's advisable when traveling to be alert, sometimes wary, and always protective of purse and possessions, it's also more than okay to take a risk now and then.  Case in point --

 Cutting through buildings and enjoying the architecture, we found the beautiful Brookfield Center where Becky displayed the wares of a beautiful city.

Beth and I negotiated (successfully) the subway from the Union Station stop near our hotel to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) stop.  Yes, we visited the ROM yesterday for a private "sparkling" event, but as with all special events, the hosts limit your experience.  We needed to see the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition which forms the main entry of the museum.

We managed to get on the right train and get off at the right stop.  If you too have negotiated subways you will remember that when exiting you look for the sign that directs you to either the site you are visiting (e.g., the ROM) or the street nearest your intended location.  We found ourselves exiting toward the previous stop (south) instead of toward the museum.

Turn around, ladies, and walk the other way.  Find the stairs at the other end and you'll be there.   Oops, dead end.  Except for the lady in the newsboy cap and fringe vest, who happened to be trying to do the same thing and so was also turning around at the dead end.

She'd lived in Toronto some years ago so she was able to help herself and us find the stairs to the surface leading to the street on which the museum sat, not 100 yds from the corner where the Crystal could be seen and photographed.  "Thanks, we're really glad you helped us.  Have a great one!"

In our desire to locate the best spot for a Kodak moment we crossed a busy intersection putting us opposite the structure.  Suddenly "cap and fringe lady" appears at Beth's elbow and is eager to help again.  I noticed the langyard around her neck, indicating her participation in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), so I said (in my best groupie voice,) "Are you a celebrity we should recognize from this week's festival?"

"Actually," she says, "my husband was the founder and also has founded a similar event in Panama."

Indeed! . . .  Yanka van der Kolk.  We'll do some research as soon as we have better internet connections.

We went back to the ROM because we'd heard about the exhibition on bats, including the Bat Cave.  Creepy to the max, but very informative.  Also we were dying to see the mummies -- pun intended. Haida totems were fabulous and all was wonderful.....

Earlier in the day we went with the tour group to the CN Tower, rode to the top, looked over the edge, rode back to the ground floor, bot some souvenirs, and re-boarded the bus.  The morning drive toured the main neighborhoods of Toronto -- Chinatown, St. Lawrence Market, Entertainment district, and downtown. We did some light shopping in The Distillery District!! Great visit and an exciting place.

With a free afternoon on our hands we decided to walk back to the St. Lawrence Market where stalls of junque are available for pennies -- things you know were in the box you a)took to the Goodwill 4 yrs ago or b) received as a "gift" from Aunt Betty when she was dispersing her treasures.  

Trendy street and shops near St. Lawrence Market
We stumbled upon a great Asian eatery -- had a magnificent spring roll sample plate with "the Best" mango salad included.  We ordered a Philadelphia roll on the side.  Highlight of the day:  Sapporro Beer, very cold and quite wonderful.
A wonderful tromp l'oeil on the way to
St. Lawrence Market

We've got some great pix and some very sore feet.  Dinner is late tonight so we are relaxing and catching up on our story.  Beth is organizing the pictures, which she will insert later.  Our daily financial reporting is accurate and up-to-date.  

Another fine day in Toronto, exploring and enjoying.  Indeed . . . 

Tomorrow we head toward Niagara Falls and a fun day on the water....dressing warmly for this event.....many layers! Indeed...


September 16, 2013
Niagara Falls, Ontario

There's an idiot poet someplace who wrote that "early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."  Idiot.

Vacation is not the time when one is supposed to rise early, even if weatlh and wisdom are awaiting.  Beth and I were up very early (Becky earlier than Beth due to some time-zone insomnia -- another story).  Breakfast was early, early, though good.  We've been assigned the Library Bar at the Fairmont Royal York as our Tauck exclusive breakfast 'nook.'  The menu is expansive, including real yogurt, variety of fruits, different breads, eggs, meats, potatoes, oatmeal, pastries, and an omelet man.  The coffee is good and the atmosphere elegant and quiet.

Early early continues as we board the bus for the ride to Niagara Falls.  "on the left. . . "  "on the right . . "  "Soon we will be arriving at . . . "  Standard tour talk.

Finally, despite some dense traffic we arrive about 10:30 am at Niagara Falls, Canadian side, of course.  It's gray, dark, overcast, wet, and gloomy. Below are the US Falls from the best view..Canadian side!!!

But we are on vacation.  Which, in this case, means we trek down to the overlook, take pictures of one another with falls in the background, and then head to the boat launch for our ride into the fray.

This is a magnificent thing, this Niagara Falls.  For a good overview of data and facts, go here: Niagara Falls Info.  There's noise, which you don't expect, and water, which you are expecting.

These are the Canadian Falls from the Canadian side!!! As we trek to the ramp we receive a fashionable (?) blue plastic parka that will cover us from head to foot.  We don this over our wind breakers and rain coats and tuck our purses and cameras in pockets and under the plastic protector.  We all look exactly alike, indistinguishable one from the other, except for the occasional hat brim extending out from the hood of the blue cape.

We are already wet.

We crowd onto the two levels of the basic ferry-like boat.  Some of us huddle together under the roof of level 1, away from the edge.  Others scurry to the bow up top or on the main deck.  This is where the fun will be most intense. And the people will get most wet!!!!!! Soppin wet!

And into the fray we proceed, directly into the roiling waters and towering mist created by the rush of the river as it drops 185 feet from the shelf above.  


The mist rushes at us, drenching our faces and anything not hidden by blue plastic.  The mist is relentless and powerful.  It reaches from the surface up above to the shelf of the falls and that far again.  The mist is so dense it forms a visual barrier, keeping us from actually seeing the falls or the rocks upon which the falling water pounds.  

We are misty-er and wetter.

It's not a long ride, but it is a good one, exciting without being frightening.  It's certainly different and a definite box to check off, as we head back up the hill to the bus, somewhat indifferent by now to the wet.

The next stop was Inniskillin, the winery where Canada's premium wine industry began.  Today is some hstory about the winery with emphasis on ice wine, grapes harvested and crushed while frozen.

The best additional info we've learned so far is that you enjoy ice wine by making sure its sweetness does not touch the tip of your tongue.  This technique takes some getting used to but definitiely enhances the taste of the sweet, sweet, wine.

Next we head to Niagara on the Lake, a charming village designed to capture the dollars of the discriminating tourist, while delivering delights from its collection of bistros, shops, gelateria, etc. We ate lunch at Bistro-61 some local foods...smoked meat, baby french fries, cheese curds all covered with gravy....delicious....also we had local brie, olive and raspberry coulis, with crostini .....delicious again!!!!

We sure left some US dollars in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

After another hour plus on the bus we are back 'home' and glad to be here.

Indeed . . . she said mistily. Besides tomorrow we head out of Toronto toward Ottawa and business...That would make a person feel misty in and of itself. EH!


September 17, 2013
Rockport, Ontario 

Saying goodbye to Toronto but told Toronto that we would like to come back. We felt comfortable in Toronto; enjoyed the architecture, the exciting sculptures, the eclectic people, the lovely parks and the fabulous underground!!!! From Toronto we headed toward the St Lawrence River, visiting lovely towns along the way. 

The city of Kingston, home of Queens College was our kick off driving along the  St. Lawrence River. We crossed bridges, drove on highways, through forests, wetlands, small winding roads and precious precious homes, barns, island cottages and beautiful smooth water. 

We arrived in Rockport to join the Thousand Islands boat tour, boarding the Island Princess II .... we didn't have to wear blue raincoats ... yippie .. the sun was shining, we were warm ... we boarded and were given a glass of champagne and a delicious buffet that included great baked chicken and the best meatballs we have ever eaten ... our salad was offered with Thousand Island dressing which was invented by the cook of George Boldt who owned the Waldorf Astoria and had a beautiful chateau built on one of the little islands we saw during the tour. 

We also have met a great couple, Dick and Elaine, from Minneapolis who were delightful. Hopefully we will see them in Arizona during the winter. 


Dick and Beth

There were little houses built on a point of granite with one little tree ... incredible .... giant homes with boathouses bigger than many of the little island homes. We think we crossed into the US and back into Canada and back into the US and back into Canada .... basing this on the flags flying in front of the houses. It was a lovely lovely couple of hours. 

THEN "back on the bus Gus", for another two hours of highway driving into Ottawa, the capital of Canada. We don't know much yet but the little part we have seen as we entered late afternoon into this lovely city. Can't wait until tomorrow and exploring. Our hotel, the Fairmont Laurier is another railroad hotel built across from the old railroad station. It is old .... we dont have our own bathrooms ... we are fighting on who has what....OMG what shall we do???? Tomorrow will tell.  INDEED!!

(She is already taking my stuff!)

Click Here for More Pictures


SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

Our ancient railroad hotel, the Fairmont Laurier, is centrally located and just across the street from the old railroad station turned conference center, but beginning to show its age. However, the food has been terrific and as we never have yet to miss a meal, most enjoyable. Last night, lamb for Beth and steak frites for Ms Becky. Just delicious! This morning we tried home made cinnamon rolls soaked in maple syrup (requires many uses of the serviette) and crepes or baguettes with maple syrup, bananas and fresh fruits. Just yummy!

A beautiful sunny day greeted us as we walked across the street to the Parliament Building and an explanation of the legislative process of Canada. Most interesting and educational.   We learned similarities and differences between the method used by Canadian and American representatives work toward new and amended laws.


Ottawa is a beautiful little city, yes, loaded with government buildings, Embassies, banks and educational institutions. Many old buildings and new buildings are mixed together and appear seamless. There seems to be a lot of preservation of old buildings. Located on the St. Lawrence River, the city spawns Ontario and Quebec. 

We traveled over to Quebec (Kebek) to the Museum of Civilization. 
The Morning Star is the dome painting representing...a guide to the means of finding direction for creation, culture  and native history.

It is a beautiful building, with a time line content structure of geology and history. Our guide started with The First Nations history, moving on to the Scandinavian first visitors, the French and other countries searching for good fishing to feed the French population of Catholics who were required to acknowledge 150 days of “no meat”.

After viewing these two beautiful and important sites, we were off to the Market for great food, shopping and eating.

Becky and I had a few errands to complete before lunch; all of which were just down the street from our hotel. We popped into the Rideau Center, Shopper’s Mart, Hudson’s Bay and out the back door to the Market. The food market was small but excellent. We decided that tonight we would “dine in suite”. We purchased small wedges of some of the local cheeses; Stilton w/mango & ginger ($53.90 per lb) and St Honore brie ($41.90 per lb). We then gathered a bit of fruit, apple and peach, and moved on to La Bottega where we topped off our supplies with slices of Genoa salami and prosciutto cotto and chocolate. Hmmmm so delicious how could we move on to lunch???


We found a great small restaurant, Vittoria Trattoria, where we had the BEST sweet tea, BEST Mediterranean Salad, BEST carrot, leek, and ginger soup! Loved it!!!! EH! Well worth the stop!  Indeed!


Once lunch was behind us, we toured the famous Chapters Book store and headed to the hotel. By that time it was around 4:30pm and we were in our jammies by 5:00pm, working on the photos, playing games, watching the TV and waiting for cocktail hour, which soon arrived. Our Polar Ice was excellent as were the delicious small tapas that made our meal. What a lovely day…….INDEED!!!!


September 19, 2013
Ottawa to Montreal

Another day of travel with stops along the way to break up “Bus butt” syndrome (which phrase Bethie will delete!)

First stop was a short half hour out of Ottawa at the College of the RCMP, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  This wonderful Canada-wide service provides elements of our US State Police, FBI, forensics labs and other science, as well as what we might call the “local police” for several of the Western Territories.

A retired Staff Sergeant (36 yrs as an RCMP) gave us background and history.  The Mounties are no longer mounted on strong steeds during their watch over the citizenry of Canada.  Now and then they climb a 14-hand black steed to provide crowd control for special events.  However, in the vast territories they have modernized their motion: ski-doos and 4-wheel drive vehicles have replaced dog sleds and horses.

The legend of the famous “Mounties” now resides in the Musical Ride, a presentation of precision horsemandship employing 50 black steeds with RCMP officers directing each animal in its specific role as a member of the dance team.  We didn’t get to see the performance which is only available for summer tourists or when the performers (riders and horses) are on tour.

The RCMP site is the location of their college, where RCMP leaders and provincial police are trained in management, human resources, operations, budgets, administration, etc.

It’s a beautiful campus complete with a gift boutique as a source of extra revenue.  Quite unique, this boutique.  After salaries, inventory and a bit of rental costs, all revenue is contributed to the Youth At Risk programs across Canada.

“Back on the bus, Gus.  No need to discuss much.”

Next we are at Chateau Vaudreuil, a wedding and conference center offering a plethora of riverside gardens and verandas where we enjoyed a plethora of gustatory offerings.  Never have either of us seen such a complex and complete buffet.  The grounds were lovely in the sunlight and so we strolled quietly before returning to the bustle of the bus and traffic and on toward Montreal for our drive around!

We arrived at the Hotel Bonaventure, a Hilton hotel built above the train station.  Built in 1964 for the expo, it is 2 floors of rooms wrapped around a central reception and pool terrace -- beginning on the 17th floor of the building!  Below us are offices and business but we are ensconced above it all.

After dinner we explored the pool.  It wasn't as warm as we expected so we didn't stay long.  There's a secret entry down a ramp and into a shallow area inside the pool room entrance, where you can get a towel.  After you're in the water, pass thru the plastic drop curtains and you are in the main pool.  We swam around a bit and then returned to our room, where we worked on photos and reports of the trip. 

Night night.  Indeed . . . !!!!


September 20, 2013
Montreal and Old Montreal

We are on a trip/tour and just in case we might have forgotten this truth, we are reminded when we are required to assemble at 8:55 am on the steps in front of the hotel building entrance.  Assembly times are the constant companion of tour participants.  We assemble for departure; we assemble for a short lecture; we assemble for a meal; we assemble for a walk around a museum.  We assemble.

This morning twas a group photo.  Oh my, but we really are on a trip, indeed!  Lots of juggling of position and giggling of voice.  Too many cutesy comments and instructions from the photographer, a smile or two and then "one more" and we are done.

We assemble on the bus.

This morning is a walking tour, a 3 hour walking tour per the agenda.  How can they expect this group of respected leaders/elders to walk for 3 hours?

In a word:  food.

We began our day at the World Trade Center listening to a discussion of the underground movement of the public during the winter as they move from home to work to dinner and back to home without ever going outside. The zipper and velcro were invented in Montreal probably to keep them from having freezing fingers buttoning clothing. The average temperature in winter is around 32 degrees F. We visited Embassy Row, the US Embassy(which is huge) and the homes of the Canadian leaders. 

The 2nd Monday in October is Thanksgiving in Canada (meaning village). Already the store and shoppers were busy preparing. 

We spent the morning learning the history of Montreal in between rest stops at a series of featured local eating spots.  We sampled paté and gelato with maple syrup and smoked meat and cheeses and a super special bagel with cream cheese and cherry preserves.  We ate every half hour.  "Because you're hungry," our guide would say as we strolled thru the historical area known as Old Montreal.

"Because you're hungry," she says, and gathers us in front of the deli serving smoked meat.  It's brisket that has been smoked over maple wood, then marinated for about a week in special spices.  The result is a delicate and wonderfully tender meat which is always sliced by hand.  The sandwich is warm as the meat has been lightly steamed just before assembly with mustard and chewy bread.  Magnifiqué, indeed!!!

Between gustatory sampling we saw the Basilica of Notre Dame, built in early 1800's.  The exterior front facade shows two towers similar to those at Paris' Notre Dame.  Inside the building is truly spectacular.  The altar has  a bas relief showing Jesus crowning Mary as Queen of Heaven. The base of the altar shows the Last Supper.

Connected to the basilica is a chapel where 250 weddings are held each year.  Fortunately no one was being married today so we saw this beautiful interior also.  The altar piece is bronze, depicting the trials of man as he moves thru life on the journey to spend eternity with God.

All the buildings in Old Montreal have a very European look, using architectural styles from the 18th and 19th centuries.  Many are now condos and apartments but in their first lives were banks, retaill showrooms, manufacturing facilities, and hotels.

The streets are still cobbled and many are set aside as pedestrian-only.  We were a typical group of tourists, cameras in hand.  Tauck, our tour company, has a special feature that sets us apart:  the whisperers.  Whisperers are small receivers, worn hanging around the neck, into which is plugged an ear bud.  The guide wears the transmitting unit, speaking into a small microphone at his/her mouth.  This is a great system allowing us to hear without standing nose-to-nose with the guide.  From the guide's perspective, they can speak in a normal voice, thereby minimizing the yelling over crowd and traffic noises.  Works qute well, the whisperer. Indeed!!

Some of our companions stayed on at Old Montreal to explore and walk some more.  Beth and I retreated to the privacy and quiet of our room for a rest.  Touring is hard work.

We will assemble later this evening for a special dinner.  We move through each day's activity with no uncertainty at all that we will be fed, never a doubt.  Indeed!!

All in their places with bright shiny faces

September 21, 2013
Quebec City

Up in the morning and off toward Quebec City stopping first off at Trois Rivieres, and a lovely maple syrup farm allowing for tastes of the several products coming from the maple sugar process.  After the 'lecture' of course we got to do some more eating -- maple sugar cookies.  

We have arrived in the area just as the maples are turning color. Thus, the colors are beyond spectacular. The mountain ash (dogberry) was also turning a bright red and giving a hint of all the colors to come, including a display of its bright red berries which remain all thru the winter.

We headed out on a "yellow road" looking at the small villages and Quebecors houses that have metal roofs, narrow dormers, small panes and long porches that often surround the house.   PS.  yellow roads bear this color on the map, indicating the traveler is off the well-traveled highways and interstates.

We were soon to arrive at Montmorency Falls, taking our first gondola ride up to the top of the falls and an exquisite lunch in the former summer home of the Governor of Quebec.

We then headed across the St Lawrence River to the Ile D' Orleans to drive narrow beautiful roads enjoying the beautiful village homes that look out over the river. Very, very lovely.

YEA!!!!! We finally arrived in Quebec City..the goal of our  trip. The hint of rain has followed us all day but we keep avoiding the downpour. Rather than dropping us off, we circled the city and had a small familiarization drive. Becky and I cannot wait to get in to the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, and get out into the city founded by Samuel De Champlain. The rains arrived the next day with vigor. We toured both the Old City and the Lower City and received a good historical briefing on the area..Becky and I were anxious to say good bye and continue our research from yesterday.

Samuel de Champlain

The Search for Sûreté 

All of our pre trip research has been focused on Armand Gamache and his Sûreté de Quebec team, Three Pines, and of course his activities in 
Quebec City. This afternoon we left with our maps and lists from the Louise Penny series of books.

We began with a walk down rue St-Louis cutting through to rue St-Jean and then heading toward the wall/gate of the old city. We first found Aux Anciens Canadienes, the oldest restaurant in in City which serves food prepared the "old" way. WE DID NOT TRY IT! But we think it is close to the location where Samuel de Champlain's personal bible was found in the archeological dig that identifies him as a protestant rather than Catholic.

On rue St-Jean we found the great bookstore and across the street the Paillard Bakery where Gamache shops for pastries. There we enjoyed gelato after a creperie dinner at Au Petite Coin Breton where we had a ham and cheese crepe, frites, salad and our first Cinzano. 

Palliard Bakery

Au Petite Coin Briton


On our way home from dinner we walked rue Ste-Anne looking at the shops, finding the Chocolate Shoppes and other interesting places to investigate. 

We walked past the Notre-Dame Basilica coming and going as it stood guard on the major corner we passed each day.

 We cut down the narrow little alley full of artists work on the rue du Tresor and cut into the precious Cafe Buade where Gamache picked up sandwiches often on his way to meet Emile.

We also found Rue Couillard and followed it down searching for the local hide-away for Emile and Armand's private breakfasts and lunches. Around the corner Becky shouted, "here it is" Chez Temporel a cozy small restaurant where we breakfasted on departure day. 

On our last day, the drizzle rain, the dark gray stone buildings, and with the sense of dark and dank, we entered the tiny restaurant, Chez Temporel. 

We were welcomed by a copy of the Louise Penny book propped on the counter and a friendly waiter who served us a bowl of cafe au lait (see Becky toasting us with her bowl), a delicious croissant of ham, egg and cheese. Ohhhhh we are adjusting so very well to living as internationals...

 September 22, 2013
Following the Path of the Sûreté

The rains have impaired our research today somewhat, though we had breakfast in the St-Laurent bar restaurant and walked the Plains of Abraham, a very large park within the Old City, and viewed the St. Lawrence River from above. Walked and walked....

Plains of Abraham
We headed out from the hotel to rue St-Louis passing by the lovely Inuit Arts of Quebec shoppe toward rue Ste-Ursule and thanks to Becky we were able to find it with no problem. We turned down hill and walked right up to Le Petit Coin Latin. Simon the waiter welcomed us in and placed us at the table where Ms Penny sat when she wrote her book.

We had a bowl of cafe au lait as suggested by Simon as to what Ms Penny had as she sat by the window and wrote. Such fun! A cozy little restaurant with a spicy flair and delightful servers. In fact Simon, the waiter, has been the only person we have spoken to that even knows that Louise Penny has written so well of Quebec City.

Walking, walking, walking through the old city wall into the city proper on rue St-Jean. We spotted a woman and two children playing the violin at the city gate. Becky immediately went over and talked with the family telling about her grandson and his violin experiences. 

We continued enjoying the rue St-Jean until we found JA Moisan, the shoppe where Amand purchases pate/cheeses made in Quebec. We purchased our dinner for tomorrow night of ham, cheeses, and pate. In our research, we think that the Abby at Saint Benoit du Lac in Sherbrooke on Lake Memphremagog may be the focus of the next Louise Penny book with the the Gregorian chants/famous  chocolate and cheese makers.

We walked and walked and walked different paths, roads and stairways to return to the hotel and prepare for farewells.

September 23, 2013
The Sûreté Path Becomes Clear

The day began with wind and cold weather....we bundled up and prepared to continue our research. We followed the steps of Gamache as we took the Funicular to the Lower City and began our final pleasure walk through the shops, lovely refurbished old buildings while we searched for a place to lunch, Bistro Sous le Fort. 

Bistro Sous le Fort

THEN we decided to climb up the "dirty stairs" (where late a night the rains would wash the animal detritus down the hill and people would have to walk and often fall into the "ick"). We climbed and climbed and climbed, "puff" puff" "puff" and then more climbing. 

Once up the hill we began our search for rue St-Stanislas. We turned the wrong way and headed down the street....caught ourselves and turned back...Becky found a TIM HORTON'S so we could finally enjoy a "Double Double"; which much to our ignorance..turned out to be a double cream and a double sugar coffee. How funny!

Once back on rue St-Stanislas we again began to climb and climb and climb with a few "puff" "puff" 's included. 


There on the right side, right in front of us, was the Literary and Historical Society, the Lit and His, inside the Morrin Centre, the home of Anglophones of Ouebec City founded in 1824. This is the place where Gamache spent his time reading during the winter and solving a murder in the basement.

We were thrilled to complete our research and to finally reach the end of the story. When we walked away to the next building we were surprised to find St Andrews Presbyterian church right next door. Another WOOZIER!! The end of the story in front of us! 

Until the Next Time - a la Prochaine

Becky and Beth
2013 September 24


then to top off this great adventure, the following photo was published in the local newspaper, The News Tribune on the back of page 1 on the dates November 15, and November 16, 2013

Beth Willis and Becky Bianco from Lakewood believe that Niagara Falls has nothing on the great Northwest. Let it rain!

No comments:

Post a Comment